Feel the Buzz: USF Health Research Day showcases best scientific work

The noise level in the Marshall Student Center escalated to a palpable buzz as USF Health Research Day 2019 progressed.  Students, trainees, faculty, staff and visitors milled about the center’s ballroom the morning of Feb. 22, checking out rows of poster presentations and eagerly discussing research projects ranging from basic and translational science to clinical, epidemiological and outcomes studies.

Some 350 poster presentations representing the breadth and depth of USF Health research were part of this year’s Research Day.

This year, some 350 poster presentations showcased the best scientific work of students, residents, fellows and postdoctoral scholars across all four USF Health colleges – Medicine, Nursing, Public Health and Pharmacy – including health-related collaborations with other USF colleges and several hospital affiliates.

Among the presenters was USF College of Public Health (COPH) doctoral student Joanna Mackie, who arrived early with her children Eva, 9, and Oliver, 4.  They helped their mother carry in her rolled-up poster and watched as she unfurled and attached it smoothly to board #70. Then, they settled on the carpet to play the game Jenga, stacking small wooden blocks beneath Mackie’s poster titled “Policy Analysis of Current Regulations and Guidelines Focusing on Nutrition and Mealtimes in Early Care and Education.”

Eva Mackie (left) and brother Oliver get a a ground floor view of USF Health Research Day. Their mother Joanna Mackie was among the students presenting posters.

Joanna Mackie, a College of Public Health doctoral student, explains her study to the faculty judges.

“I don’t have child care today, and I thought it’s important for them to see Mommy’s research work in action,” said Mackie, who studies the prevention of obesity in the context of early child care. “This is a valuable day to come together and exchange ideas.  Sometimes we get so involved in our own work that we’re not even aware that another group’s work has overlap or interconnection with our research interests.”

Charles Lockwood, MD, senior vice president of USF Health and dean of the Morsani College of Medicine (MCOM) was one of 147 judges for the event – his fifth year judging Research Day here.

Charles Lockwood, MD, senior vice president for USF Health and dean of the Morsani College of Medicine, was one of the 147 Research Day judges.

“I really love seeing the energy and hearing their enthusiasm,” Dr. Lockwood said about interacting with the students as a judge. “What’s unique about our USF Health Research Day is that it’s not just looking at gene splicing and transgenic mice, it’s population-based health, it’s community activism, it’s understanding the limits of some of our technologies and their clinical applications, it’s working to enhance the care delivery systems.  The projects represent a fantastic mix of approaches to medicine and health.”

Stephen Liggett, MD, associate vice president for research at USF Health, said the annual gathering provides an opportunity for those from different disciplines and colleges to learn about one another’s work and perhaps forge collaborations to strengthen their research.  And, he said, it offers a valuable learning experience for those interested in pursuing careers in scientific discovery to benefit patients or community health and well-being.

Stephen Liggett, MD, associate vice president for USF Health, welcomes participants to 2019 USF Health Research Day.

“Virtually every one of the students or trainees at Research Day has a faculty mentor who helps them with this (poster) format that is typical of presentations at national scientific and medical meetings,” Dr. Liggett said. “It’s a good training exercise to be able to put your most relevant information down on a board and then be able to explain it to anyone who passes by, whether that’s someone who does not understand the research well or someone who understands it better than you do.”

Students and trainees spend several months to several years working on the projects they present.  The Research Day posters are diverse, but they follow a standard recommended format: presenting a hypothesis, concisely explaining why it’s important and what was done to tackle the issue or problem, and then the conclusion.

Isaac Raplee, a doctoral student in the MCOM Department of Molecular Medicine, greets judge Victoria Rich, PhD, dean of the USF College of Nursing. Raplee won the the USF Health Dean’s Interdisciplinary Research Award for his poster titled “Aligning the Aligners: Comparing RNA sequencing data and gene expression quantification tools for formalin-fixed, parafin-embedded breast cancer specimens.”

“It’s been a great experience. Now we’re working on getting our work published in the Journal of Athletic Training,” said Rachel Shelton, a master’s student in the MCOM’s Athletic Training Program and coauthor of a study investigating effectiveness of alternative cooling methods in decreasing core body temperature. “It’s more than just coming up with a research idea. You go through a lot of effort to make sure you have all the information required to make a valid argument, yet rule out the information you don’t necessarily need.”

Lead author Walenska Santiago-Datil and coauthor Noor Ali stood next to their poster, a collaboration of the College of Public Health and the Department of Anthropology.  The study aimed to identify barriers to access, and gaps in reproductive services, available to college-age students — including those trying to or planning to get pregnant while still in college. Most fertility research involving college students focuses primarily on family planning, specifically pregnancy prevention, the students found in their literature review.

COPH master’s students Waleska Santiago-Datil and Noor Ali wait for the judges.

“This is an opportunity to showcase an issue (infertility experiences among college students) that the public may not be aware of,” said Santiago-Datil, a COPH graduate student.

The Roy H. Behnke keynote speaker was Gerald Dorn II, MD, the Needleman professor of medicine, associate chair for translational research, and director for the Center for Pharmacogenomics at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.  Dr. Dorn kicked off Research Day with his presentation “The Mitochondrial Basis of Disease: Newly recognized diseases (and new approaches to old ones).”

Research Day keynote speaker Gerald Dorn II, MD, of Washington University School of Medicine, spoke about the mitochondrial basis of disease.

Trained as a cardiologist and a scientist, Dr. Dorn helped discover how mitochondria (the energy machine in cells) are poorly regulated in myocytes in heart failure, leading to progressive loss of pumping function.  His key observation that many neurodegenerative diseases may have similar mitochondrial dysfunction in neurons led to studies to unravel this common cause of cell death in two apparently different types of diseases, Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). His laboratory developed a drug compound — a small molecule mitofusin agonist – shown to promote mitochondrial health and neuronal repair in experimental models of these disabling diseases.  Dr. Dorn recently founded a company seeking to expand the drug’s use to other neurological conditions, such as traumatic injury and Guillain-Barré syndrome.

Tampa General Hospital, the primary teaching hospital for USF Health Morsani College of Medicine, was the presenting sponsor for USF Health Research Day 2019.

COPH graduate student Kaylin Martin (right), speaks with judge Stephanie Marhefka, associate professor at COPH.

Following the 10th Annual Joseph Krzanowski Invited Oral Presentations by 12 select students representing medicine, nursing, public health and pharmacy, the day-long celebration of research concluded with a ceremony announcing top award and certificate winners:

Top Award Winners

The 10th Annual Joseph Krzanowski, PhD Invited Oral Presenters
Samia Dutra, postdoctoral scholar, CON
Nandozie Emechebe, doctoral student, COPH
Helena Hernandez-Cuervo, doctoral student, MCOM
John Lockhart, doctoral student, MCOM
Adrian Moy, Med II student, MCOM
Udoka Okaro, doctoral student, MCOM
Waise Quarni, postdoctoral scholar, MCOM
Manumit Sarkar, postdoctoral scholar, COPH
Fredric Starling, doctoral student, COP
Christian Tan, resident, MCOM
Kenneth Taylor, doctoral student, MCOM
Kevin Wu, Med II student, MCOM

Kevin Wu, a second-year medical student, was one of two winners of the Joseph Krazanowski, PhD, Invited Oral Presentation Award sponsored by Tampa General Hospital. Wu’s study concluded that RAG deficient B cells show evidence of a defective immune screening process, known as peripheral tolerance checkpoint, that is more severe in adult patients than in pre-immune infants, and central tolerance breaks may also be present.

The Joseph Krzanowski, PhD Outstanding Oral Presentations Award (sponsored by TGH)
Kevin Wu, Med II student  — B cell tolerance checkpoints in autoimmunity in RAG deficiency
Christian Tan, resident — Newborn Murmur Management: A Quality Improvement Study

Outstanding Clinical Research Fellow Award (sponsored by TGH)
Rachel Sprague — β2-Adrenergic Receptor Expression in Human Endometrial Stromal Cells Potentially Mediates Catecholestradiol-induced Proliferation: Implications for Endometriosis

Christian Tan, MD (center), a resident, receives The Joseph Krzanowski, PhD, Invited Oral Presentation Award from Dr. Liggett and Sally Houston, MD, executive vice president and chief medical officer of Tampa General Hospital. Dr. Tan’s quality improvement study indicated that  inappropriate echocardiograms in otherwise asymptomatic newborns with heart murmurs can be reduced with provider education, improved documentation and pediatric cardiology consultation.

Outstanding Innovations in Medicine Poster Presentation Award
Sadeea Rahman

Outstanding Med IV Student Watson Clinic Award
Ali-Musa Jaffer

Dr. Christopher P. Phelps Memorial Fund for Neuroscience Graduate Student Travel Award
Heather Mahoney

USF Health Dean’s Interdisciplinary Research Award
Isaac Raplee

USF Federal Credit Union Infectious Disease Research Award (sponsored by the USF Federal Credit Union)
Caroline Simmons

MCOM Outstanding Postdoctoral Scholar Poster Award in Neuroscience
Aimee Winter

MCOM Outstanding Postdoctoral Scholar Poster Award in Molecular and Cell Biology
Bojjibabu Chidipi

MCOM Outstanding Resident Poster Award
Carissa Simone

The Lisa DeSafey Jaap Memorial Award for Patient-Centered Health Care and Communications
Seon Kyung Nam
Certificate Winners

MCOM Doctoral Students
Chart Review Research – MaKenzie Judy
Cancer Biology Research – Udoku Okaro
Clinical Science Research – Sierra Bahr
Molecular and Cellular Biology Research – Ashley Liu

MCOM Masters Students
Research – Melinda Peters
Case Studies and Chart Review Research – Bola Yusuf

MCOM Medical Students I
Research – Louis Leon

MCOM Medical Students II
Basic Research – Kevin Wu
Clinical Science Research – Saranya Sundaram
Evidence-based Research – Gautam Krishna Koipallil
Chart Review Research – Nina Liu, Ethan Song and Joseph Balbona
Global Health Chart Review Research – Amanda Pitre
Education Research – Luke Furtak and Adam Elkhayat
Public Health Research – Andrea Diviney

MCOM Medical Students III
Clinical Science Research – Roger Kayaleh
Education and Global Health Research – Alex Leonard
Chart Review Research – Mahnoor Khan
Case Studies – Indira Ranaweera

MCOM Medical Students IV
Allergy and Immunology Chart Review Research – Jessica Kennedy
Clinical Science Chart Review Research – Jesus Diaz Vera

MCOM Residents and Clinical Fellows
Resident Case Studies – Alicia Billington
Resident Chart Review Research – Elizabeth Hoover
Clinical Fellows Case Studies – Shylah Marie Moore-Pardo
Clinical Fellows Chart Review Research – David Swoboda

COPH Poster Presentations
Fahad Mansuri
Cheyenne Wagi
Joanna Mackie
Rumour Piepenbrink
Kenneth Taylor
Sharonda Lovett
Ashley Hydrick
Samuel May
David Almario
Meredith Kernbach
Stacey Griner
Nicholas Thomas

College of Nursing & College of Pharmacy
CON Doctoral Student Research – Tina Mason
COP Doctoral Student Research – Tu Phan
COP Masters Student Research – Payal Gosh
COP Postdoctoral Scholar Research – Jennifer Rodgers

USF Health Undergraduate Students
Neuroscience Research – Danielle Blazier
Allergy, Immunology & Infectious Disease Research – Sina Hosseinian
Research – Alexis Coiner
Cardiovascular Research – Ethan Zheng
Chart Review Research – Hussien Mohamed
Case Studies – Julianna James

Some award winners pose for a group photo at the close of another annual USF Health Research Day.

-Video by Torie M. Doll and Photos by Fredrick J. Coleman, USF Health Communications and Marketing

More Research Day photos….